$49M Project Homekey in Costa Mesa aims to house 30 veterans and 10 others by October

Workers carry new air ventilators to rooms at the site of an old Motel 6 which is being converted into affordable apartments.
Workers carry new air ventilators to rooms at the site of an old Motel 6 on Newport Boulevard, which is being converted into affordable apartments through the state’s Project Homekey initiative. Residents will have a place to live and receive needed services through nonprofit Mercy House, which will operate at the site in Costa Mesa.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, March 22. We are Carol Cormaci and Vince Nguyen bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter. Together we’ve aggregated the latest local news and events for you.

It’s all coming together at an aging Motel 6 in Costa Mesa.

After years of planning, the 88-unit complex at a 1.17-acre site near the 55 Freeway is transforming into affordable housing for military veterans, seniors and others at risk of homelessness, according to this story from our Daily Pilot colleague, reporter Sara Cardine.

The roughly $49-million project was made possible by the state’s Project Homekey, stemming from an earlier initiative — Project Roomkey — which housed homeless and at-risk individuals in motel rooms shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first 40 units of the Motel 6 project are expected to be move-in ready by October, providing housing for 30 formerly homeless U.S. veterans and 10 at-risk individuals eligible for assistance under the Mental Health Services Act.

A second phase, scheduled to begin early next year, will open up another 47 units for low-income seniors.

Once completed, residents will be housed in 320-square-foot rooms that will allow two occupants and pets. Residents will also have access to on-site support services, like healthcare and case management, coordinated by Santa Ana nonprofit Mercy House.

“This is not a shelter. This is somebody’s home, an apartment complex. It’s where people live,” Mercy House Chief Executive Larry Haynes told Cardine of the living model during a tour of the site Thursday. “If you were to move in today, according to our statistics, you’d probably have a 97% or 98% chance of still being housed here a year from now.”

Soon-to-be residents can also take financial literacy classes or participate in education programs in a planned business center. Other common areas are also in the mix, like a TV and game room. The former motel’s pool is also being converted into a community garden.

Operating alongside Mercy House on the project is Newport Beach-based Community Development Partners, which specializes in affordable housing projects and was converting models into living spaces even before Project Roomkey existed.

Today, Project Homekey allows cities to collect federal, state and county funds and work with developers and service providers to build affordable housing units and maintain program offerings on properties motel owners are willing to sell.

Nearly $10.5 million came from the state’s Project Homekey budget, while the city of Costa Mesa put forth $5.85 million in federal and state allocations, and Orange County contributed another $5.35 million.

For now, a small placard beneath a blacked out “Motel 6” logo advertises Wi-Fi availability. By fall, people will be calling the previously forlorn site “home.”


Collapsed storm drain channel between condominiums at Coyote Village in La Habra.
A collapsed storm drain channel between condominiums at Coyote Village on Friday in La Habra.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

— A storm drain channel collapsed near a La Habra condominium complex last Wednesday. According to Los Angeles Times reporter Nathan Solis, the collapse that created a hole 40 feet wide complicates matters in an ongoing legal dispute between a homeowners association and the city of La Habra on whether the needed repairs are the responsibility of the property owner or the city. The ground previously opened in 2019, creating a 120-by-40-foot hole, and the city and the homeowners association have yet to agree on who is responsible for fixing that hole. The homeowners association is suing La Habra, claiming the city is responsible for fixing the 2019 collapse.

— A Newport Beach home on the problematic bluff where a landslide occurred has been demolished. The hillside behind the home on Galaxy Drive had completely deteriorated, leaving the property too dangerous to enter. Watchful eyes are on that section of the street, where other houses are in a precarious position. Stabilization improvements are not uncommon for residents living on the bluff, according to Daily Pilot contributor Susan Hoffman and staff writer Sara Cardine. Records provided by the city indicate that the homeowner at 1950 Galaxy submitted a request in 1992 for a geotechnical report as the result of a backyard “bluff failure.”

— A federal judge in Orange County this week blocked key provisions of a California law that drastically restricts the sale of new handguns in the state, saying parts of the legislation violate the 2nd Amendment, according to this report from the Associated Press that was published by the L.A. Times. U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney, sitting in Santa Ana, wrote Monday that California’s requirements for new handguns are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

— Fountain Valley city officials reported that revenue streams for the city are outperforming projections by $3.1 million in the current fiscal year. The growth is spearheaded by sales tax and Measure HH outperforming estimates by a combined $2 million, according to the city’s finance director. Fountain Valley now shows $76.5 million in general fund revenue and a $6.3-million operating budget surplus. Capital improvement project expenditures and a $3-million pension pay-down have the city on pace for a $4.8-million budget deficit.

The Orange County Power Authority board holds its first in-person meeting on March 15.
The Orange County Power Authority board holds its first in-person meeting on March 15 in Irvine.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

A draft improvement plan was outlined by former state auditor Elaine Howle on Wednesday, as another city considers pulling out of the Orange County Power Authority. Howle, now a member of Balance Public Relations, helped OCPA officials come up with a response following three audits that raised questions about the organization’s management, contracting practices and transparency, writes Daily Pilot reporter Matt Szabo. One key change is the increased presence of a community advisory committee. OCPA board members have also called the utility’s chief executive, Brian Probolsky, to step down from his position. Buena Park Mayor Art Brown has agendized a withdrawal from the authority for the next City Council meeting on March 28, while Irvine and Huntington Beach have also considered leaving OCPA.

— For at least a decade, Costa Mesa High and Middle School art teacher Keli Marchbank and her students have been contributing to the Memory Project, a nonprofit that encourages young artists to create portraits of children facing hardships internationally. Artwork from her classroom has made its rounds to countries including India, Syria and Mexico and, this year, roughly 30 portraits made their way to Ukraine, which recently observed the grim hallmark of entering its second year of war with Russia.


Wreckage from a Tesla Model S Plaid that slammed into construction equipment in Newport Beach May 12 is gathered by  police.
Wreckage from a May 12 vehicle collision involving a Tesla Model S Plaid on West Coast Highway in Newport Beach is gathered as part of a local investigation by city police.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

— Investigators have determined autopilot was not engaged in a 2022 Tesla Model S crash that killed three in Newport Beach. As Daily Pilot reporter Eric Licas writes, on May 12, a Tesla Model S Plaid traveling “in great excess of the speed limit” slammed into construction equipment at about 12:45 a.m. on Pacific Coast Highway, between Old Newport Boulevard and Riverside Avenue, according to Newport Beach Police Lt. Eric Little. Crystal McCallum, 34, of Texas, Andrew James Chaves, 32, of Arizona, and Wayne Walter Swanson Jr., 40, were killed in the crash. Three people working at the scene were also injured.

CalOptima warns of scammers stealing private information from Orange County senior and low-income beneficiaries. The scammers tell victims they can use their subsidized health insurance benefits to get a free phone and wireless service, but no such program exists through CalOptima.

— Orange County targets of EBT Skimmers can turn to organizations like Community Action Partnership of Orange County while funds are reprocessed. Thieves will place a device on a retailer’s card-swiping machine to copy or “skim” the EBT card information, according to TimesOC reporter Sarah Mosqueda. Founded in 1965, CAP OC is dedicated to addressing the root of poverty by advocating for low-income individuals and families through systemic reforms, social justice and racial equity. Food, diapers and hot meals and utility assistance can all be accessed through the organization.

Joe Cartwright will be the 11th police chief in the Newport Beach Police Department’s history.
(Courtesy of the city of Newport Beach)

— Joe Cartwright has been appointed Newport Beach police chief, City Manager Grace Leung announced on Monday. A member of the Newport Beach police department for over two decades, Cartwright has been acting Newport Beach police chief since former Chief Jon Lewis departed in December. He will formally step into his role next month, making him the 11th police chief in the department’s history.

— A 48-year-old man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to time already served in jail for drowning a family dog in Laguna Beach. Jason Douglas Creager accepted a plea deal from Orange County Superior Court Judge Derek Johnson, who placed him on one year of informal probation. The dog was 13 years old, blind and nearly unable to walk, Creager’s attorney Cameron Talley said.

— A woman involved in a melee at a Costa Mesa nightclub parking lot that left three victims stabbed was granted a request last Wednesday to participate in a misdemeanor pretrial diversion program. Nancy Ahmad Bakir, 23, of Newport Beach was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service and participate in a “personal empowerment program” by Orange County Superior Court Judge Kevin Haskins.

— A 33-year-old Riverside man pleaded guilty Friday and was immediately sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for a deadly crash that killed a woman and her dog in an unincorporated area near Costa Mesa. Ali Zohair Fakhreddine killed 72-year-old pedestrian Cleusa Moraes Coffman of Newport Beach and her Shih Tzu, Bob, on Sept. 6, 2020 after running a red light.

— Authorities sought the public’s help Sunday in identifying and locating a man they believe wounded another man during a shooting at about 9 p.m. Friday at an open-air outlet mall at 20 City Boulevard West in Orange, City News Service reports. Police urged anyone with information about the shooting to call them at (714) 744-7444 or Orange County Crime Stoppers at (855) 847-6227.

— Victor Manuel Romero of Garden Grove was sentenced Friday to 15 years to life in prison for a collision that killed a bicyclist in Huntington Beach in 2019. The 29-year-old, who has a prior conviction for drunk driving, was convicted Nov. 16 of second-degree murder and hit-and-run causing permanent and serious injury. He was convicted of killing 33-year-old transient Raymond MacDonald March 30, 2019.

Orange County Sheriff investigators check out the roof of Central Men's Jail in 2016 after three inmates escaped.
Orange County Sheriff investigators checkout roof of Central Men’s Jail in 2016 after three inmates escaped with the help of a makeshift rope of knotted bedsheets and cloth. The man prosecutors called the mastermind of the escape was convicted Thursday.
(Los Angeles Times)

— The man prosecutors call the mastermind of a 2016 escape by three inmates from the Central Men’s Jail was convicted Thursday of felony counts of escaping custody and car theft. Hossein Nayeri, 44, is already imprisoned for life without the chance of parole for his role in the sexual mutilation of a marijuana dispensary owner in a kidnapping-extortion scheme. Jurors, however, acquitted Nayeri of kidnapping during a carjacking and other lesser-included offenses of simple kidnapping, carjacking and false imprisonment. Sentencing is scheduled for March 24.

— Kevin Galetto, 63, a former resident of Westminster who now lives in Florida, pleaded guilty Monday in the District of Columbia to a felony charge for assaulting, resisting or impeding law enforcement officers during the Jan. 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol, which disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress convened to count the electoral votes related to the presidential election, according to a CNS report. Galetto is expected to by sentenced Aug. 8.

—A 22-year-old man, Maximilian Gregory Ludwig, was convicted yesterday of killing his father, Christopher Ludwig, on a Laguna Niguel trail near Highlands Avenue the day after Thanksgiving in 2018, according to CNS, but an Orange County Superior Court judge found he was insane at the time of the attack. Ludwig will next be examined by county mental health officials and make recommendations to Judge Patrick Donahue, who set April 14 for a hearing on committing Ludwig to a state mental health hospital indefinitely.


Ryan Reynolds
U.S. wireless carrier T-Mobile announced on March 15 that it is buying Costa Mesa-based prepaid wireless brand Mint Mobile, of which actor Ryan Reynolds is a part owner, as part of a cash-and-stock deal worth up to $1.35 billion.
(Richard Shotwell / invision / AP)

— T-Mobile USA announced it’s buying Costa Mesa-based Mint Mobile, the budget wireless provider partly owned by actor Ryan Reynolds, for as much as $1.35 billion in an effort to bolster its prepaid phone business and reach more lower-income customers, according to this report by the L.A. Times. Mint co-founders David Glickman and his partner Rizwan Kassim will join T-Mobile and manage the business. Glickman told The Times that Reynolds, who owns an undisclosed but “significant” share of Mint, will continue to do advertisements on behalf of the firm.

Clothing swaps — gatherings where people donate and/or acquire used clothes at no charge — are a way for people to play a small role in reducing their carbon footprint. L.A. Times writer Karen Garcia has compiled a list of businesses that participate in or host such events in Los Angeles and Orange County, including Festiveknickknacks Sustainable Parties in Irvine and Eco Now, which has various locations in the O.C. including Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach and Anaheim. Eco Now will host another clothing swap event on Earth Day, April 22.


Bill Hoffman is a Laguna Beach resident who gives tours of his hometown and other spots under his business “Hoffy Tours."
Bill Hoffman, a Laguna Beach resident who gives tours of his hometown and other spots under his business “Hoffy Tours,” talks about the Laguna Art Museum.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

— Retired teacher Bill Hoffman’s lesson plan nowadays is an information packet he gives out to those who attend his Hoffy Tours, including the tour itinerary, fun quizzes and information about Southern California. Hoffman clearly sees the benefits to his tours, which to him showcase the best of what Golden State living has to offer. He said he’s developed 83 different tours, mostly in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. He began giving the tours in the early 1980s, then formalized the business once he retired from teaching.

— UC Irvine hosted Match Day celebrations Friday, as 100 students enrolled in UCI’s School of Medicine learned where their career paths would lead them after months of interviews and planning. Since 1952, residency selections have been determined by the National Residency Matching Program, a private nonprofit organization clearinghouse that uses a mathematical algorithm to pair applicants and programs, based on rank-order preference lists. Once a selection has been made, students are essentially obligated to attend that program, according to Megan Osborn, associate dean for students at the UC Irvine School of Medicine.

Taco Mesita, the new concept from the Taco Mesa family, offers high-quality tacos at a low price point in order to compete with fast-food tacos. The steak taco ($6), for example, takes skirt steak over the kitchen’s woodfire grill before nestling it in a homemade corn tortilla and topping it with cilantro pickled onions. The manageable-size bean and cheese burrito ($3.75), made on a homemade flour tortilla, is filled with just two ingredients: flavorful pinto beans and stretchy oaxaca cheese. Taco Mesita opened in Old Town Tustin at 765 El Camino Real in February.


Ernie Els smiles as he holds the Hoag Classic trophy after winning the tournament at Newport Beach Country Club on Sunday.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

— World Golf Hall of Fame member Ernie Els won the Hoag Classic for the second time at Newport Beach Country Club on Sunday. Els, nicknamed “The Big Easy,” carded a final-round 65 to win the tournament, becoming the fourth two-time winner of the competition, joining Hale Irwin, Jay Haas and Newport Beach resident Fred Couples. Els previously won the Hoag Classic in 2020. Winning PGA Tour Champions titles had been hard to come by for the South African, who came into the weekend’s event with 33 top-10 finishes on the tour, yet just two trophies.

— The Irvine City Council voted 3-2 last week to move forward on the Orange County Great Park aquatics complex, which will have USA Water Polo as a primary tenant, in phase one of its framework plan. The $90-million center was part of the post-2028 second phase of the Great Park, partially because an agreement last September significantly limited city access to the pool for public use. But USA Water Polo has already ponied up $12 million to cover the cost of its 10,000 square feet of exclusive use areas, like national team locker rooms, helping the City Council make its decision to move the project to phase one.

Anaheim Ducks right wing Troy Terry (19) and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes.
Anaheim Ducks right wing Troy Terry (19) and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes (43) vie for the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim Sunday.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

— The Vancouver Canucks beat the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 on Sunday night at Honda Center, eliminating our local hockey team from playoff contention. This is the fifth year in a row the Ducks will miss the postseason, the longest drought in franchise history.


Cassandra Trenary and Daniel Camargo in American Ballet Theatre's "Like Water for Chocolate."
(Fabrizio Ferri)

— The ballet “Like Water for Chocolate” comes to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for its first North American performance next Wednesday, March 29. Named for the novel by Laura Esquivel of the same name, the ballet tells a story set in 19th-century Mexico of Tita, a woman forbidden from marrying her wealthy neighbor Pedro because of a family tradition requiring the youngest daughter to care for her mother until her death. Tickets can be purchased here.

— The Orange County Pet & Reptile Expo takes place this weekend at the OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Cost for adults to attend is $15 for single-day admission or $25 for two-day admission. Children 4 and up will be admitted for $10 single-day or $15 two-day visits; children 3 and younger will be admitted free. Parking is $12.

— A self-guided Amazing Places of the Canyons Tour on April 1 invites guests to explore six sites at Modjeska, Silverado and Trabuco canyons. Maps will be available April 1 starting at 10 a.m. at the Modjeska Home, 29042 Modjeska Canyon Road in Silverado, or call (310) 995-0976. The tour ends at 3 p.m., and no tickets are needed.

— Hanamatsuri Spring Festival at Orange County Buddhist Church is set for the weekend of April 15 and 16. The festival, marking the celebration of the birth of the Buddha, will feature foods, games, a boutique and craft items, exhibits and performances uniquely Japanese, and a taiko drum performance. Admission is free. Hours are 1 to 7 p.m. both days. The church is located at 909 S. Dale Ave., Anaheim. There will be free parking at Magnolia High School, 2450 W. Ball Road, with free shuttle service to and from the festival.


Thank you for reading today’s newsletter. If you have a memory or story about Orange County, we would love to read and share it in this space. Please try to keep your submission to 100 words or less and include your name and current city of residence.

We appreciate your help in making this the best newsletter it can be. Please send news tips, your memory of life in O.C. (photos welcome!) or comments to carol.cormaci@latimes.com or vincent.nguyen@latimes.com.